The Caja del Rio Plateau is a huge and desolate collection of old volcanos, wells, horse traps and other remnants of the wild west, and dirt roads & trails. It sits at the eastern edge of the Rio Grande, the life blood of central NM, between the river and Santa Fe. The views from the Caja are incredible, sometimes to the west overlooking Los Alamos / White Rock, sometimes to the south towards Albuquerque. Typical western big sky. The thing about Caja is that it is pretty rolling/flat compared to most of the area trails. It's a great place for beginners to stretch thir legs and explore, and for seasoned riders to log serious mileage. While there are few serious climbs, there are rocky, fun, technical "jeep roads" that are as good as any single track, just a little hard to follow sometimes! It is absolutely 100% critical that you get the maps, and preferably, Craig Martin's Santa Fe Trail guide book, as he's got a well researched section on Caja del Rio. My favorite areas are to the central/north like at Soda Springs, which goes right along the river (a rarity) and a little south of there is Montoso Peak, which has some fun loops to be made on ROUGH jeep trails that are rarely used. One other area I've recently discovered is by "Twin Peaks", which lie sort of central in the Caja. There's a good climb up to a saddle between the peaks (also a 'fuelwood' area at this time (early 2004)) accessed easily off of the central ct. rd. 62/FS 24 access.
Contact any of us locals for more information, or as mentioned, get the maps & trail book. This whole area is classic wide open New Mexican terrain, when winter settles in most of it is rideable. Elevation varies form 6300 ft to about 7000 ft, so it's not too demanding.
From Santa Fe "proper" you head south/west on 599/Relief Route to one of three FS roads that lead into this vast area. Northern-most is Buckman Road. It is accessed off 599 via La Tierra through the LAs Campanas development. Buckman takes you all the way to the Rio Grande in about 16 miles. Access the Soda Springs trail, as well as some of the northern area trails, including jeep roads around "Sagebrush Flats".
Central Caja del Rio is accessed form county road 62, right off of 599. Follow signs from exit on paved roads for a few miles until the county road 62 sign points down a well graded gravel road. Pass the old landfill and some motorcycle areas and you are almost there. After the 3rd (I believe...) cattle guard you are on FS land and the road turns into FS 24 which forms the main "backbone" to this epic collection of dirt roads, jeep trails and some singletrack.
Lastly, to the far south you can access the opposite end of FS 24 by going west off
Summary: The Caja is a 67,000, drop-dead gorgeous place which goes from Buckman Road on the north to La Bahada Hill on the south. Many loop trails exist on the order of 10-20 miles and terrain varies from easy (e.g., Chino Mesa overlook) to experts only (e.g., Ortiz Mountain trail). Craig Martin's trail guide has been updated in the form of a map, published by Otowi Crossing Press of Los Alamos and available at Otowi Crossing (Los Alamos), The Travel Bug, Desert Wind Saddlery, the Feed bin, and Mountain Sports, all in Santa Fe.
Summary: The Plateau is mostly boring riding that is only good for getting some miles in when higher trails are muddy. Beware of Craig Martin's book - it is old and bears little resemblance to what is out there now.
Recommended Route: Any of the above. All are boring.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Wait for spring and hit Winsor trail.
Review Date January 30, 2004
Overall Rating 4 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 3 of 5
Technical Difficulty 3 of 5
Ridden Trail: Once a month
Reviewed by: glenzx
Cross Country Rider
Summary: I'll go ahead and review a small area; the loop by Montoso Peak. 16-18 miles depending on options. Start at intersection of FS 24 and FS 2551 (pretty sure of that designation). It's descernable by the cattleguard/"T" intersection to the west of FS 24, about 5 miles from entrance at county road 62 access. It heads slightly DH for about 2 miles where you need to bear left towards overhead powerlines, then follow powerlines about 200 yards to faint track to left, headed southwest. Now the real fun starts! This leg of the loop is rocky with quick climbs and twists. The further you get, the more amazing the views are to riders right. The whole route basically keeps Montoso Peak in view, until you eventually climb out to FS 24 back to the "Trail head". Follow the jeep track in a counter-clockwise loop, and if your feel like doing more exploring, take one of the spurs to the canyon edge/ridge off to the right. It's hard to give exact directions, but get the map(s) or email me for them! This is a fun 18 mile or so loop that I last used with some friends training for a 24 hour race. Moderate/Mellow pace got us around in about 1:15
Recommended Route: See description, but basically follow jeep roads around Montoso Peak off of FS 24. Take as many 'scenic' spurs as you feel like!
Other recommended trails in the same area: Twin Peaks, Soda Springs, and Sagebrush Flats and down by Tetilla Peak. (all at Caja del Rio)